tv NBC Bay Area News Special NBC October 4, 2014 6:30pm-7:01pm PDT
revolution to civil rights and beyond, history shows us that it takes a confluence of events that makes the perfect storm for that movement to take hold. so is the case for the free speech movement. it happened here in the fall of 1964, 50 years ago on the uc berkley campus. >> now is the time to get rid of segregation and discrimination all over this nation. now is the time. >> it is time when the operation of the machine makes you so sick at heart that you can't take part. >> it was almost as if the country was waking up from a long slumber of the 1950s. >> it was november 22nd, and i was already at cal. and came out of classes, and
there were clusters -- there was a great silence on the campus. >> we kind of lost our innocence from that time forward. >> the summer of the kennedy assassination, lawmakers passed the civil rights act. students traveled to the south to try to register african-american voters. it was called the mississippi summer project and a young berkley student, whose name would become synonymous with the movement, was mario. >> you will not understand the
free speech movement if you fail to see it's a continuation of the civil rights movement. >> we were part of something bigger than us, you know. there was a civil rights movement going on. it was led by african-americans. it was on an assertion that the old way is not going to rule anymore, that change has to happen. >> part of that change happened in the fall of 1964 when those students returned here to campus. they also returned to this small brick sidewalk at the corner of bancroft and telegraph. the university misunderstood the significance of this space and that misunderstanding sparked the free speech movement. >> traditionally there were tables here for all sorts of political activity, for sports and civil rights, all the way from the far left and communists and farther left all the way to the young americans for freedom. >> it was right in the midst of
all this intense political feeling and activity, but the regents announced that that strip of red brick belonged to them and not to the city of berkley and therefore the rallies that we were holding and the picketing and the leafl leafletting and the tables we set up there, we were told were no longer legal. >> the university said no, you can't have your tables there. >> we were told we can't do that anymore. no way were we going to, you know, stop. >> and that's really what precipitated the free speech movement. >> i think that the first sit-in there were people, mario included, standing at those balconies opposite the welcome sign up there. and they were standing up there
and they were shouting, join us, join us. and i thought about it and i did. >> we set up the tables anyway. the deans came out, starting taking names of the students, students sitting at the tables, and, well, every time a dean took your name, the student got up and then those students sat down. >> on september 30th, 1964, students that had violated the order not to raise funds were cited and told to report for disciplinary hearings at the dean of students office. i believe it was eight students, a number of students. it wasn't eight students that showed up for the disciplinary hearings. it was several hundred. >> there was, of course, a standoff. we ended up staying inside the hall until well past midnight. >> i remember being in a meeting with mario and jack and a bunch
of other people. and he said, well, this is mario speaking, if the principal is freedom of speech on campus, why don't we move the tables from from that strip of sidewalk right on to the plaza and make a declarative statement? why don't we hold our rally there? so that's what happened. that was october 1st. >> coming up next, a look at what happened on october 1st when the university miscalculated yet again and handed the students the perfect platform and imagery to capture the attention of not only the bay area, but also the nation. looking for one of these?
activity. what happened next no one could have predicted. >> and so at noon, several of our group, including our core group, set up tables with information, literature, violating rules. i had the good fortune of being the person they came to first. >> jack was sitting at the core table, and he refused to identify himself when the deans asked for his registration. and they made the incredible decision to bring a cop car onto the center of the plaza at the noon hour. and i mean, how anybody could be that stupid, i don't know. >> i was right in front of the car. i was by the right fender on the
driver's side, and i heard somebody shout, sit down. >> by the time i got there, they had people sitting down on all sides and there i sat for the next 32 hours. >> it was mario, who in a sports jack jack jacket, took off his shoes and climbed on top of that police car. the symbol is striking. protest over power. >> the symbol of authority, the police car, became a symbol of a protest. it became a symbol of revolt because it was surrounded by protesters. the authority was emasculated. >> and we took our shoes off. we had all taken our shoes off because we didn't want to damage the car and stood on top of it. >> pretty soon within an hour or
two, there was a sound. there was a microphone on top of the police car and a big sound system. and anybody who wanted to speak could sign up. and i was right in the middle of it. it was just thrilling. >> and then that night was the first time i'd ever made a speech and it was from the top of the police car. i remember quoting frederick douglas who said that power concedes nothing without a demand. i remember that i quoted that and the crowd roared back its affirmation. >> by friday night, october 2nd, some 30 hours after the sit-in had started, the pressure was mounting. the next day was parents' day. it could not have been a worse time for the university and better time for the protesters. >> we were scared.
they had assembled all these police from all around and we'd been told to take off wristwatches and earrings and stuff so that they couldn't pull on those. it was very scary. most of the people involved were not hardened political, you know, sophisticates. for many people, it was the first demonstration they'd ever been involved in. >> i remember mario racing toward the car. we could all see him waving a piece of paperwo and getting upn top of the car and saying, we had reached an agreement and then enumerating what it was and urging us to accept the agreement by acclimation and to quietly disperse and we did. >> mario became the prompt
innocent leader of the united fronts movement. >> they met and realized that we had a struggle ahead of us and started developing more formal organizational structure and came up with a name, and that was the free speech movement. it formed that weekend. >> it captured something that appeals to every american, free speech. >> there was a sense of a new day dawning. coming up next, a look at the war that took just three months to win and why one cal professor calls it a rare moment in history. >> i believe it is critical to our democracy to do what we do here at the investigative unit. >> we have the platform to shed light and ultimately bring about change. >> we're able to sit together. a fair story that incorporates all sides will style exposing the very big problems. >> it's all about holding the powerful accountable. >> and if government is wasting
your tax dollars, then it's our job to ask why. insurance companies are spending millions of dollars trying to mislead you about the effects of proposition 46. well here's the truth: 46 will save lives. it will save money too. i'm bob pack, and i'm fighting for prop 46 because i lost my two children to preventable medical errors and i don't want anyone else to lose theirs. the three provisions in 46 will reduce medical errors and protect patients. save money and save lives. yes on 46. (yawn) (ding!) toaster strudel! more fruit in the filling, ya? mmm! ya! warm, flaky, gooey, toaster strudel!
now, with more fruit! don't wait for awesome... totino's pizza rolls... ...gets you there in just 60 seconds. that rare moment happened on december 8th, 1964. during those three months, mario made his famous bodies upon the gears speech. police made their largest mass arrest in california history at the time and momentum was building. >> individual students must ask
themselves whether they wish to be a part of such action. >> the image of speakers carefully removing their shoes so they could stand with their stocking feet or bare feet on the roof of a police car, that's striking. the contrast between the car, the arrested person, and the speaker free to speak was a very powerful image. >> jack wineburg was that arrested person inside the police car for 32 hours until the university agreed to negotiate. >> and that was on a friday night. we knew we had won. now we're going into negotiations with the university over these issues, which they were never willing to do before. now we were a serious force to be reckoned with. >> at that point, we began to realize this was way bigger than anything we had imagined, but i don't think we even yet understood that this was
historic. >> what they also may not have imagined is negotiations with the university would quickly fall apart. >> one of the failures of the administration was a reluctance on the part of people in this office and this position to talk with students about matters of principal, to attempt a dialogue and a real exchange about values and views and the purposes and role of the education that is offered here. >> they just didn't get it. i mean, they were living -- they were living in a different era. they continued for weeks to think this was just a variation of a panty raid. >> we were committed, and i think we sustained that commitment to nonviolence, so we did not use any -- we used classic forms of civil disobedience. >> during october and much of
november, students and faculty did meet. there was little progress until november 20th. >> i addressed about 10,000 people. we couldn't believe the size of the audience we got, and they were hanging off the student union building like bunches of grapes. >> there was an iconic photograph that was taken november 20th. we're walking in a march and we're going through a gate and we have a banner that says free speech. >> the guy in the middle in his best suit, that's me. >> i knew we were going to win. we have numbers. we have too many people. >> a significantly smaller group headed up the counterprotest. bruce roberts was one of them. >> at berkley in those days, the
counting was eight of us and 10,000 of them. we were very small in number. i'm told, although i don't know it for a fact, we got our funding from one of the regents. i don't know which one. i don't know if it's true. we met in the basement of a hall. we would stay making posters and making plans until 11:00, 12:00 at night and then going out and occasionally manning booths and talking to people, so that was what we did to try to counter the free speech movement. >> and then december 7th we held a rally. that's the one where the estimate was 20,000. >> the most famous speech that mario gave -- >> you got to make it stop. you have to win the case of the people. unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working
at all. >> bodies on the machine and bodies on the gears speech was atypical. all the speeches until then had been more educational. >> police arrested more than 800 students that night. the largest mass arrest in california history at the time. >> i will never forget the arrests. i was called at midnight by the head of the associated students. you're going to see something you're not going to believe. i watched at midnight as probably about 1,000 policeman came marching down. it was a scary time too. there were students in there and people standing up for their rights that were thrown around. i have to applaud them for standing up for what they believe. >> after the mass arrest on december 2nd and the faculty revolted from the administration and passed in wheeler auditorium, there was a mass
meeting of the faculty which demands the resignation of the chancell chancellor, which worked. the university should not control the content of speech on campus. only time and manner. >> the ideals are articulated on the free speech movement platform were correct. there ought to be free speech on campus. it was one of the great moments of my life. >> i think it took awhile before we realized the impact that this was having not only as a country. it had enormous impact on the country, but in other parts of the world. >> i don't like sitting on the sidelines and it's really not like me to do that. i just never have. i kind of sat on the sidelines there and i wish i hadn't.
>> i think i've softened as i've gotten older. what the students were protesting over is something i think was very valuable in our society. the ends were good and they were achie achieved. >> it was one of those rare moments in life where we're both right and successful. we're both on the right side and we won. it's very hard to do both. you can be right or you can win. very rarely do you do both. on december 8th, we did both. it was a hell of a time. >> on january 2nd, a little more than three months after the protest began, the chancellor was out and free speech was in. that was the beginning of student activism here at uc berkley. it empowered a young actor and aspiring politician named ronald reagan. that's next.
50 years later, uc berkley is embracing the free speech movement. what many people may not know is the free speech movement as an organized group dissolved in early 1965, but its leg expands -- legacy expands the political spectrum. >> it was a kind of revolution because it created an enormous expectation. the counter revolution was tougher than the revolution. >> the anti-war movement plagued other movements with regard to disabilities and women's rights. they all have a common core and that common core was the sense that america had to change. >> we had unleashed this enormous force, the force of
student protest. this free speech movement started an era of protest on college campuses. did the movement accomplish anything? yeah, it won certain rights and it made a reputation for this university as a bastion of free speech. >> it began a year ago when the so-called free speech who have no appreciation for freedom -- >> the free speech movement was the perfect foil for ronald reagan. >> part of his speech that aroused the most applause was when he attacked berkley. >> the university of california, certainly berkley, is synonymous with the free speech movement. whenever there is a movement
around the country having to do with the rights of people who are otherwise subjugated in some way, berkley is involved. >> all incoming students this fall were asked to read mario's biography. he spoke to students over the summer as well. >> just 50 years ago, a lot of people were willing to go to jail for civil rights. >> the power of the free speech movement did change the character of the campus and became the basis on which this campus is known.
it has remained part of the fabric of the campus. >> ideas change, and i think there's a sense in which the cal campus as an institution has embraced the free speech movement as being part of its legacy. >> so what's next? >> there are going to be many issues that are going to come up this fall and months and years ahead where students and faculty and administration are going to have to agree to disagree, but can only do if they use the legacy of the free speech movement to develop the kind of sense of engaged listening, but also respectful understanding of difference. >> anybody who was part of it or remembers that era also
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